Fourth Graders Use RAFT Kits to Learn About Codes (from The Valley Catholic)
Riddle me this: When is 5 = 101? If you’re feeling stumped, you may want to head over to Mrs. Gloria Los Banos’ fourth grade classroom at St. Justin School to ask one of her students for a helping hand. They have become quite the expert code crackers lately thanks to a couple of wonderful activity kits Mrs. Los Banos picked up at a RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching) workshop this summer. To help you solve the riddle, her students could share with you what they learned while exploring the first kit, Binary Dots. Through the use of games and various hands-on materials, the students learned about binary code and how to convert simple base-10 numbers into base-2. It was a great lesson on place value, number sense, exponents, and number bases. In the end, any one of the fourth graders would be able to explain the answer to the riddle: 5 = 101 in binary.
The coding and the fun did not stop there, however. Mrs. Los Banos took the lesson a step further and introduced the ASCII alphabet, braille, and Morse code, showing the students how each system utilizes codes for every letter of the alphabet. Armed with this new knowledge, the kids made brand-new nametags for themselves and represented their names using all three systems.
The second kit Mrs. Los Banos shared with her class took coding another step further by introducing the concept of cryptography, the art of writing or solving codes. The kit was entitled Caesar Cipher Disc and taught the students a technique that Julius Caesar himself used to encode and decode messages when he was a Roman general. The activity began with creating a cipher disc, which served as the key to writing and solving coded messages. After learning how to use the disc, the students were asked to decipher some famous quotes. For example, “F UJSSD XFAJI NX F UJSSD JFWSJI” [key 5] was decoded to Benjamin Franklin’s famous adage, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Afterwards, the students were able to create their own codes and messages to share with others. The class learned, too, that cryptography was not only used thousands of years ago as a way to protect the interests of kings and military leaders, it is also utilized today as a way to protect the vast amounts of personal, financial, and medical data stored in computer systems worldwide. The kit incorporated lessons in history, math, and language arts as well as the Common Core standards of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.
Overall, each of the fourth graders enjoyed both activity kits. I guess you could say they were a “GNL MNY” [key 5] — that translates to a BIG HIT according to the Caesar cipher disc.